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May 22, 2018

Are we too stupid to make housing decisions?

California's new rooftop solar mandate will add approximately $12,000 to the cost of a new home.

Mick Pattinson

By Mick Pattinson
Are we really too stupid to make our own housing or energy decisions here in California? According to our political masters in Sacramento the answer to that question is yes!

The latest political edict is the decision by the California Energy Commission to mandate all new homes will be required to include solar power by 2020. Another government mandate that will add approximately $12,000 to the cost of a new home while reducing emissions by a mere 0.32 percent.

I thought we already had a flourishing solar industry in our State. I see panels going on rooftops wherever I go. I hear commercials for solar energy on the radio all the time. Home owners and new home buyers making personal decisions to invest in the financial and environmental benefits of renewable energy without any interference from big brother.

In 2017 our State produced only 82,000 new homes and already 15,000 of those included solar energy without the interference of a government mandate. According to the New York Times, solar energy already provides almost 16 percent of California's electricity and is a fast growing industry employing 86,000 workers.

But that isn't good enough for the five unelected Energy Commission members appointed by our Governor who pushed their personal opinions upon us without any legislative process or any real debate. Big brother in all its glory.

Sacramento is a housing killer. Blame resides with out-of-touch legislators beholden to their political paymasters and, on top of that, unelected appointees to special commissions who impose their ideology too. This lethal combination of forces has created a housing calamity of homelessness and exorbitant home prices unaffordable to all but the elite.

Governor Brown recently boasted about California becoming the 5th largest economy in the world, but look what that economic success has created for our citizens. Unaffordable housing, traffic gridlock, failing schools, high taxes and the flight of our middle class to other states.

Political incompetence on a massive scale is squandering the riches generated by our entrepreneurs and high tech geniuses plus our natural resources, climate and work ethic. This solar decision and the manner of its imposition is just one more example of political ideology trumping the free market desires of consumers.

This political mandate in favor of solar energy will hurt the prospects for other forms of clean energy including renewable sources such as wind and biomass. But the big loser in this debacle is housing, with another major cost increase added by yet another unelected state agency. $12,000 for rooftop solar (which is twice the cost of utility scale solar) financed within a 30-year mortgage. A 2015 study of housing costs by Point Loma Nazarene University found government fees and regulations already add 40 percent to local house prices.

Proponents say solar will generate income to cover running costs but they do not say where the original $12,000 expenditure that will drive up the house price will come from. Every $1,000 dollars added to the cost of a home eliminates thousands of potential buyers from the market, suppressing home ownership and killing the American dream.

Former California State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, now a resident of Texas, reports that his new state produces twice the amount of renewable energy that California creates thanks to market forces and without the interference of a state energy commission. According to DeVore, retail electricity rates in California are 89 percent higher than they are in Texas.

Why do we have an Energy Commission? If Texas can operate very successfully without one why can't we? Why do we have hundreds of other commissions that simply drive up the cost of our goods and services? Most of them only exist to provide well-paid jobs for the political "good old boys" who can no longer win political office and have to be put out to grass. Let's start getting rid of them.

Mick Pattinson is past President of the California Building Industry Association and San Diego Building Industry Association. The opinions expressed here are his own.


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